Effects of nutrient and non-nutrient stimuli on cytosolic pH in cultured insulinoma (HIT-T15) cells

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1989 Jul 11;1012(2):166-70. doi: 10.1016/0167-4889(89)90091-8.


Intracellular pH (pHi) was measured in the insulin-secreting HIT-T15 cell line using the pH-sensitive fluorescent dye, 2',7'-bis(carboxyethyl)-5'(6')-carboxyfluorescein (BCECF). It was observed that the addition of a weak acid (e.g., acetate or propionate) caused a rapid decrease in pHi, followed by a slower recovery to the resting pH value. Conversely the addition of N4Cl caused an increase in pHi followed by recovery. The addition of amiloride caused a fall in pHi; however, in this case no recovery to basal pH levels was observed. Subsequent addition of a weak acid caused a further fall in pHi with no recovery. The addition of glucose caused a transient acidification followed by alkalinization. When glucose was added to cells which had been pretreated with amiloride, the initial acidification was not followed by recovery or alkalinization. Addition of glyceraldehyde, alpha-ketoisocaproate, lactate or pyruvate to HIT cells also resulted in intracellular acidification followed by recovery. Similarly, depolarisation of HIT cells by treatment with high K+ or with Ba2+ was associated with a pronounced fall in pHi, followed by a gradual recovery. Insulin secretion from HIT cells was stimulated by glucose, glyceraldehyde, alpha-ketoisocaproate, lactate, pyruvate and KCl, whilst amiloride and weak acids exerted only modest effects in the absence of glucose, but amiloride in particular markedly potentiated glucose-induced insulin release. Thus, HIT cells appear to have an amiloride-sensitive mechanism for the extrusion of protons, probably Na+-H+ exchange. Whilst intracellular acidification appears to potentiate secretory responses to nutrient stimuli, it seems unlikely that the activation of HIT cells by these nutrients occurs as a result of intracellular acidification. The mechanisms by which various nutrient and non-nutrient stimuli might exert distinct effects on pHi are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium / drug effects*
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / metabolism*
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulinoma / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism


  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Insulin
  • 2',7'-bis(carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein
  • Glucose